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Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating

Mrrzy 13 May 13 - 02:02 PM
Jack Campin 13 May 13 - 06:18 PM
Joe Offer 14 May 13 - 03:42 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 May 13 - 10:41 AM
Bill D 14 May 13 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,leeneia 15 May 13 - 10:31 AM
Stilly River Sage 15 May 13 - 10:54 PM
pavane 16 May 13 - 02:49 PM
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Subject: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: Mrrzy
Date: 13 May 13 - 02:02 PM

MIDI turns 30, NPR has a fascinating piece on it, when did y'all get into it? What has it meant for you?

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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 May 13 - 06:18 PM

A few years before it was invented. I read a postgraduate thesis by Ken Loosemore from Edinburgh University in 1976 in which he described a language for controlling synthesizers which was a bit more powerful than MIDI. (I suggested some extended rhythm and control constructs he could add to it; I don't think they went anywhere). I don't think the thesis was ever published. He demonstrated it using a PDP-11 to control a rack of synthesiser modules.

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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 May 13 - 03:42 AM

Here's the article from the NPR Blog. What's amazing is that they gave the MIDI away - they didn't exploit it for profit.

    The MIDI Revolution: Synthesizing Music For The Masses

    May 12, 2013 5:34 AM

    You can't hear it, not exactly, but it's in almost every song on the radio. It's a 30-year-old technology that hasn't changed much over the years but is now used in ways that its creators likely never imagined. In contemporary music, there's nothing closer to a universal translator than MIDI.

    Simply put, MIDI is a way for computers to understand musical instruments. Until 1983, when the technology was first demonstrated in a presentation to the National Association of Music Merchants, synthesizers were stand-alone electronic instruments, incapable of linking up with computers. But the idea for MIDI goes back to 1978, when engineer and synthesizer designer Dave Smith put out the Prophet 5, one of the earliest musical instruments to include a microprocessor.

    After Smith's creation, a number of designers built similar synthesizers, all equipped with digital compatibility. This meant they could communicate digitally with one another, but it was a complicated process: There was no standard way for these instruments to connect.

    "And then in the early '80s we all started realizing that it was kind of silly for all of us to have our own proprietary interfaces that couldn't talk to each other," Smith says. "We realized that if the industry was going to grow much, that we really should have a common way of doing that."

    So Smith worked with a team of designers to create what was called the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a technology that unites synthesizers and computers. Most synthesizers work by pressing a key on keyboard to generate an electrical current, which becomes sound by passing through an amplifier and speakers. MIDI turns that current to something that computers could understand.

    "What MIDI does is it digitizes that process," says Tom White, CEO of the MIDI Manufacturers Association. "Instead of actually creating a voltage, there's a series of numbers that are generated every time you press a key or turn a knob on the synthesizer. And the wonder of all that, the magnificent part about it is, since its all numbers, then a computer can process it. So what happens is, you can play something on a synthesizer, the computer can store it and then it's easy to play it back or edit it."

    So lets say, for example, a middle C is struck on a keyboard that's hooked up to a laptop. MIDI turns all of the information about that note — its timbre, length, volume, etc. — into code that the computer can then change. That C can become a D or be stretched to twice its length. The possibilities are nearly endless. And it's not just keyboards that can plug in. With the right setup, electric guitars, violins, basses — almost anything — can be played and manipulated through MIDI. Today, much of what's heard on commercial radio was made with the technology.

    The reason MIDI is everywhere has a lot to do with the intent of its creators. At the time, Smith, who is sometimes called "the father of MIDI," was with a company called Sequential Circuits. He set up a meeting with keyboard companies Roland, Yamaha, Korg and Kawai.

    "The idea was, it didn't have to be perfect. We wanted something everyone could agree on and then we wanted to give it away because we wanted to make sure it became universally adopted," Smith says. "I don't even remember discussing much about the possibility of charging royalties or licensing fees. It was just assumed that we would give it away."

    Today, that decision has allowed MIDI to travel far. In addition to music, MIDI is also used to control light shows and animatronics. It was used to generate ring tones in early cellphones. What was first used to link one synthesizer to another is now used to control the synchronized fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Its impact on the music industry was recognized this year when Smith and his collaborator Ikutaro Kakehashi won a technical Grammy for their work.

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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 May 13 - 10:41 AM

Hi, Mrrzy. Thanks for the link. I enjoyed the five-minute show.

I can't recall when I first started using MIDI. About 1990, perhaps. I have a MIDI controller and Noteworthy Composer, and I use it to download and edit early music and Celtic music for my friends. I also use it to produce music that I play on piano.

For us, MIDI music is a half-way point. I listen to it on the computer, edit it to suit, and then we play the printed music on acoustic instruments.

Without MIDI, I would have much less music and fewer friends.

Last Sunday (Mother's Day) only three friends showed up for music. Our only harpist can hardly read music. She sat at the harp and began playing 'Southwind' from memory. I stepped to the PC, brought up JC's Tune Finder, found and printed 'Southwind' and in a few minutes we were all playing it together.

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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: Bill D
Date: 14 May 13 - 11:35 AM

Interesting... because just yeaterday I discovered Public Domain Music dot org with hundreds of (mostly American) old songs with their lyrics and midi links to play them.

The lyrics are public domain... his MIDI files are copyrighted and require "a one-time royalty free license fee still applies to any commercial use of my MIDI files whether rendered, or not, to audio.".... reasonable, since he put a lot of work into them. One can use them privately to learn s tunes and lyrics which are hard to find.

My wife & I have already identified several Civil War songs we want to learn.

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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 May 13 - 10:31 AM

Sounds good, Bill. One of the benefits of MIDI is that if a tune is in a difficult key for you, you can change it to suit. You can also download it and print it big or small. Good luck with your Civil War project.

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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 15 May 13 - 10:54 PM

I've found some of my favorite artists through NPR reviews, folks I might not have come across without one of their comprehensive reviews.


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Subject: RE: Review? Tech? NPR on MIDI, fascinating
From: pavane
Date: 16 May 13 - 02:49 PM

Mrs Pavane still uses MIDI backing tracks - easy to change key, tempo, and instruments using software "wot I wrote" for her laptop.

She used to use a MIDI file player (Roland Sound Canvas) but this only used 720k disks which are now impossible to get. (It still works to produce the sound but you have to send the file in via the MIDI IN port instead)

The designers of MIDI files made sensible decisions to make the format extensible/open-ended, but unfortunately Roland didn't have the same approach with the hardware.

But BEWARE - using unlicensed MIDI files as backing tracks for public performance is not allowed (in the UK). Files bought from the file suppliers are licenced forthis, but Karaoke files are NOT, and nor are files you make yourself for any copyright music.

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